The Afghanistan Canada Research Group was formed in 2006 by a group of York University graduate students concerned with the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan.
The focus of our work over the past two years was to document Afghan opinions of the international intervention in Afghanistan.
In June and July of 2007, I spent five weeks travelling in Afghanistan with another researcher Hamayon Rastgar. Based out of Kabul, we travelled to Bamiyan and Yawkawlang in the central region of Afghanistan, north into Parwan province, and as far south as the city of Ghazni. During Hamayon’s three month visit, he travelled further north to Mazar-e-Sharif and Konduz and as far south as Kandahar City.
The purpose of our visit was to ask ordinary Afghans – particularly workers and students who do not have a voice in either the international or Afghan media – what they think about the international military intervention in their homeland.
We set up a video camera on two university campuses in Kabul and Bamiyan, at the teachers’ college in Kabul, on street corners, in markets and poor neighbourhoods in the communities we visited. We invited Afghans to tell us what they think of the international military intervention.
We cannot claim our research in Afghanistan is scientifically conclusive; it was in fact anecdotal and relied on the self-selection of respondents who volunteered to appear on camera. We also had a difficult time getting women to speak – a situation symptomatic of deeper problems experienced by women, some of which I will describe below.
Despite these methodological limitations, the high number of grievances Afghans expressed in opposition to the international intervention, we recorded, suggests there may be far less support for the military mission than some polls suggest. The quantitative analyses of recent polls conducted in Afghanistan fail to capture the complexly nuanced analyses of responses we heard from Afghans.
Many Afghans told us they consider the current military mission the same way as they consider previous invasions by British and Soviet military forces. We were reminded the invading forces in both those cases claimed to represent the best interests of Afghans, but both occupations proved to serve the geopolitical interests of these powerful states at the expense of most Afghans.
Many Afghans told us they consider our occupation of their country colonialism or imperialism.
Numerous Afghans told us variations of the phrase: “If you come as a guest we will treat you with the greatest hospitality, but if you come as an invader we will resist and ultimately overcome your force.”
Afghans expressed to us numerous grievances regarding the international intervention: 1) the international military forces are causing high numbers of civilian casualties, displacing populations, arbitrarily arresting and detaining people, and generally humiliating Afghans; 2) the international intervention has reconstituted the theocratic regime first instituted by force with American support, in 1992, and has rewarded warlords who are accused of war crimes; 3) the international community has not reconstructed the essentials of public infrastructure in any systematic way; and 4) promises of liberating women are perceived as not only ineffectual, but intentionally deceptive.
Many Afghans also indicated a number of geopolitical and economic reasons why they believe Canada and the other international forces continue to occupy their country.
Article Courtesy of the Socialist Project
Image Courtesy of the Canadian DN